The state Department of Environmental Protection this month approved a new rule to help control the water running off properties in storms and carrying pollution with it.
The agency didn’t describe the regulations, however. The public probably won’t get to see the details of the rule until the agency’s actions are published in the New Jersey Register, which NJ Spotlight said should happen next month.
The DEP a year ago floated a proposal for the rule, which drew both praise and criticism. If it didn’t act within a year of the proposal, the agency would have had to try again to overhaul the state’s stormwater management program. Passing the rule before releasing it gave the DEP a little more time to finish it.
The draft rule was widely praised for supporting green infrastructure such as permeable pavements, rain gardens and green roofs that can reduce water running off buildings and lots.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, however, said the proposal didn’t seem to do enough to reducing flooding and improve water quality. In particular, FEMA objected to the possible elimination of buffer zones around rivers and streams.
Only 5% of New Jersey waterways fully meet federal clean water standards, but a DEP report in September showed declines in some pollutants in rivers, lakes and shore waters.
That report, required every two years by the federal government, said just a quarter of New Jersey’s rivers, lakes and ponds met standards for recreational waters. All ocean beaches, however, fully met standards for swimming.
Regulations reducing pollution from wastewater treatment plants were found to be effective, and levels of phosphorous and nitrogen pollution continued their 30-year decline. But runoff from farms and salted roads led to increases in dissolved solids and chlorides.
With stormwater runoff reducing water quality in more than a third of New Jersey’s waters, the new runoff regulations are important and deserve the scrutiny they’ll get — after the fact.